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Emirates Festival of Literature 2023

Earlier this month, Sarah McIntyre and I were lucky enough to be guests at the Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai - our third visit. There’s nothing much I can add to Sarah’s account: she’s a good journalist as well as a great illustrator, so for details of what we did and all the lovely people we met, head on over to her blog. But here are a few photos I took during our stay.

One of the things I was talking about at the festival was my Railhead trilogy. I think I’d just finished the first book the first time I visited Dubai, and this extraordinary city had a big influence on the next two books. I’d sort of forgotten that, but returning was weirdly like stepping back into the world of Railhead. I really liked the architecture of the new Mohammed bin Rashid Library (the open-book-shaped building in the sunset view above). The library was a festival venue this year, and pecked with visitors when I was there to help Sarah with her Comics Workshop. But we had a nose round earlier in the week when it was much quieter, and looked like something from 2001, only with more pouffes.

Something I hadn’t forgotten was the warm welcome we always get from the festival’s tireless organisers and aLeo the people who attended our events - it’s lovely to talk to such eager, engaged audiences. This year the children’s events were all introduced by young hosts: here I am with Izabella Lebig, who compéred my Railhead session with immense charm and confidence. Anaya, who introduced our Roly Poly Flying Piny session later in the week, was just as good - I asked her if they teach public speaking in Emirati schools, but apparently not; it just comes naturally.

Oh, here’s a drawing Sarah made of me reading from Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep… The people sitting behind her were very impressed (and so am I!)

Huge thanks to the Festival team for inviting me again, and to everyone who came to see our sessions. It really is a place where stories happen.


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